After world-wide condemnation against disgraced mogul Harvey Weinstein and the birth of the #MeToo movement, Hollywood is experiencing a major paradigm shift. Weinstein’s alleged vicious and exploitative treatment of employees, coupled with the company’s failure to protect them, presented egregious violations of civil rights, human rights, and business laws.
In the midst of all this chaos enter Karen Patmas, former model turned CEO of National Talent LA, the newest SAG/AFTRA Frachised agency. Patmas comes with a fresh new look on what a talent agency should be and what it should offer to their most precious commodity: the actors the agency represents. Cinemabuzz interviewed Karen Patmas in Los Angeles.
CB: What made you decide to open a talent agency?
KP: National Talent LA resulted from a combination of my passion for and experience in the industry, many years working as a behavioral health therapist with a clinical degree and through a life tragedy that broke my heart yet gave me strength. I started in modeling and acting as a teenager and then went to college and graduate school to help others as a therapist. After 15 years of experience in the field as a trauma specialized therapist working in private practice, hospital lock down, case management, ER psych triage and starting a behavioral health department within a large health system, I never lost my passion for modeling and acting. The time was right for that next step in the industry and with my history of helping others and leading, opening a talent agency was a natural evolution. As an agent I can blend all my experiences together to help others. The key turning point in my life was the death of my 24 year old son who died in a car accident in August of 2017. Even though the heartbreak is indescribable, this tragedy gave me a strength and focus that is beyond words. At only 24 years old, my son had the most humble, giving, and loving heart. He gave and helped without blinking an eye and the term “give the shirt off your back” fit him well. He also lived life to the fullest and believed in pursuing your passion. He loved life. He taught all around him to Live, Love, and Laugh. So this agency is my true passion because not only is it in my heart to help others rise to their true potential but also to carry on with my son’s heartfelt desire to help others. This agency is not just a business to me, it is my heart, my soul and my passion.
CB: How is NTLA different from other agencies? What sets NTLA apart?
KP: What sets it apart is combination of my passion behind what started the agency and my focus on the core values of the agency. Because of the recent focus on ethics in the industry, my enduring commitment to core values: Ethics, Integrity, Transparency, Service and Transformation is timely. This is something that will not only be very strongly enforced with the agency employees but also with the talent on my roster. In my experience in the industry and since the start of my agency, I have encountered several ethical dilemmas. But I remain steadfast on how this agency does business. I will not compromise the core values or the values of National Talent LA. It is in my DNA and the best way to honor my son’s memory
CB: Your Hashtag is #Webelieveinyou. Can you expand on that?
KP: The hashtag #WeBelieveinYou originally started with one of my favorite sayings, which is “We Rise by Lifting Others”. The #WeBelieveinYou slogan is what I pride my agency on. If we have you on our roster we do believe in you. I believe in the balance of partnership. If we believe in and encourage others they will grow to their fullest potential. This requires hard work and dedication from the individual. You must have both the encouragement around you and the work ethic.
CB: How does an actor get an agent?
KP: Getting an agent first starts with hard work, dedication, and willingness to learn. Be prepared before you apply. You need to have a good headshot, resume, and a reel. Remember this is a business and you are selling yourself. I use the example of my Masters degree and working in the therapy field. I was educated with a degree just as if you were a nurse, a police officer or a school teacher. You would not walk in and get the job without having the training first. Think of acting the same way, you need to invest in yourself just as any in profession. It takes hard work, education and training.
CB: What do you look for in the talent you want to be represented by NTLA?
KP: What I look for in talent is professionalism, skill, and dedication. It is vital that my roster represents my agency when they show up to an audition, prepared and with a professional attitude and work ethic. This is vital to my agency’s reputation. My talent is my agency. If I get an application from a talent interested in being signed with the agency, I want to know that they have been dedicated enough to have done the research to understand what a proper headshot is, have taken ongoing training and practice to increase and maintain their skills. Be professional, on time and prepared. If someone shows up late and does not have a resume and headshot to an interview, that is actually part of the interview. If they are not on time and prepared for the interview then it is a concern they will show up on time and prepared at an audition. Keep in mind, most actors know there are many more auditions in comparison to bookings. Each audition is vital practice and you should always go into it as if you are getting the job. They might not pick you for that job, but it’s not uncommon that you fit the part for another and they call you to book you or a better matching role in something else.
CB: From your experience, what advise can you offer new actors and people in the industry in order to get started?
KP: My advice for new actors in the industry is first to understand that this is a profession and as with any profession, you have to invest into yourself. Would you send your child to a teacher that never trained or was not educated? Would you go to doctor that did not go to medical school? Formal education with reputable classes and coaching are required to get your foot in the door to be able to perform. Your headshot and resume are crucial. Research resume preparation for actors. Proper formatting is essential. I often encounter new actors who actually have more than they realize to put on that resume. Even though you are new without many booked jobs, put your acting training on it, your life skills and your current profession. There are bookings for people that are professionally trained in other areas such as a nurse, a pilot and more. You must be thick skinned and learn how to take rejection. What this means is when you go to an audition, when you do not book the job, you still must have a positive attitude. This comes from knowing the industry and understanding that there were hundreds of other talented people who auditioned and you may not have been picked just because, and not because there was something wrong with your look. You just did not fit the part. If it was your audition performance, then maybe you need to grow and train more. The tough skin part is that you won’t know why they did not pick you and after many auditions, you will need to maintain the same positive dedication that you start with.
CB: What is the most rewarding part of your career as a talent agent?
KP: The most rewarding part of my career is helping other people achieve their dreams and goals and watching people grow to their fullest potential. I mentioned in the earlier that being prepared and trained is important, but that is a base to start with. I truly believe that no matter how big you get in the industry or what you achieve in any life endeavors, there is always growth if we allow ourselves to always have a “learning attitude”
CB: Where do you see the agency 5 years from now?
KP: I see my talent agency growing much larger in the next five years while holding the same core values. I am growing rapidly and adding divisions at this very moment while still being careful with my base. I do have the philosophy that if you are not careful with a strong solid base, the building will crumble. As I grow, I will need more staff and I plan to be very careful that the staff match the core values of the agency. The last thing I want is to sign talent who get lost on the roster. This requires that the talent on the roster is invested, hardworking and dedicated. It takes a team of dedicated hardworking agents and dedicated hard working talent to create that successful outcome.What are some of your short-term goals vs. long terms goals for the agency?
CB: What are some of your short-term goals vs. long terms goals for the agency?
KP: My short term goals are to continue to build my base of National Talent LA carefully as it is still fairly new. I want to be careful from the start to keep to those core values as I start out. I also want to network with people who have the same core values as National Talent LA. I do not want to send our talent on anything that is questionable or compromising to their best interest. My long term goal is to have an agency that is respected and well known for ethics and professionalism that talent and producers can trust and count on. In a word, integrity.
CB: What would you want NTLA to be known for in Hollywood?
KP: I would like NTLA to be known for being a game changer for our commitment to core values, promoting those core values in the industry helping others to make their mark honestly and ethically. I had a couple people use the term “angel of Hollywood” in reference to me. This requires some explanation though. It brings me back to my son who had the soul of an angel. “Angel” is not meant to imply “perfect”. As a therapist I am concerned about perfectionism. We are all imperfect people. Confronting and admitting our imperfections is the beginning of becoming a better person. As with my son, the term “angel” implies humility, one who helps other as an instinct. Los Angeles is “City of Angels”, it seems appropriate that the city of angels would have an “angel of Hollywood” within it. Not in the sense of a “perfect angel” but in the sense of guiding and helping others go for their dreams and overcome whatever heartbreak and disappointment they must to fulfill their dreams. I balance the expectation that others will do their part and I will do mine to encourage and help them grow. You can only help others that are also helping themselves. Toughness combined with compassion.